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I realize it has been ages since I’ve posted anything here. I’ve been keeping myself busy! I’m now hard at work preparing lectures for my upcoming course. I’ll be teaching non-science first year undergraduates all about microbes.  Balancing this with research has taken up most of my time and brain power, so I’ve let this space languish a bit. I did want to share some highlights from the past few months, however.

Summer Collecting

The summer was a blast! The summer student that I was working with generated an impressive data set, and learned to analyze the data. He’s applying for medical school now while he finishes his final year of undergraduate. I pretty sure that this exposure to research gave him a few new insights into opportunities and career paths in science.  We took one day out of the lab schedule to take all of the undergraduate summer students in the lab down to the seashore to see the seaweeds in situ. 

The field day was one of the highlights of the summer. Seaweeds are notoriously difficult to identify in the field, but seeing them through the fresh eyes of students made us grad students realize that even though we might not be able to put Latin names on every species of branched red alga, we actually do know our stuff! I was also impressed at how eager all the students were to find and identify the seaweeds that they were working on. Here are some photos from that day.

Learning about seaweeds

This is the mid-low intertidal zone, and the tide pool has lots of kelp in it!

Learning about seaweeds 2

It was a beautiful day, with a bit of fog. It is days like this that remind us how much we love the work we do!

I also went on two collecting trips, one to Quadra and Cortes Islands in British Columbia. Here, I collected the red algae Porphyra. There are about 20 species of this genus in BC and it is better known as nori, the seaweed that is used as a wrap for sushi. The goal of my project is to develop a molecular tool to distinguish among the species. I also travelled the coast of Nova Scotia this summer, where we stumbled on some pretty amazing collecting sites, and nearly got eaten by black flies. Here are a few photos from those trips.

On Cortes Island, pressing Porphyra specimens

On Cortes Island, pressing Porphyra specimens

In this photo, I’m preparing to press some specimens onto herbarium paper. This preserves the seaweed for future analysis. A small sample is taken and dried in silica gel to be later used in DNA analysis.

Here are a few photos from Nova Scotia.


Peggy's Cove Intertidal Zone

Peggy's Cove Intertidal Zone



Collecting in an estuary

Collecting in an estuary

My first publication

The other highlight of the last few months has been the publication of my first scientific article. The research that I did during my first two years in graduate school came out in September in the journal Botany (formerly known as the Canadian Journal of Botany). The paper is called “Assigning morphological variants of Fucus (Fucales, Phaeophyceae) in Canadian waters to recognized species using DNA barcoding” and can be found here

The here and now

As I mentioned, I’m currently working on lecture material as well as research. While this is keeping me busy, I’m keeping in touch with Web 2.0 things by becoming more active on Twitter This microblog website has already lead to one major international collaboration, and several smaller but also very useful connections. I’ll be the education project partner in a new multilingual education website for children, but this is so new that I can’t mention details just yet. In smaller collaborations, I’ve shared resources with educators, and made connections with people across the world. This tool has opened many new doors for me, so I recommend you check it out! 

The future of this blog

While I had hopes for weekly updates when I started this blog, I think occasional updates are more realistic. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences as a first-time sessional instructor next term.